Crusade for health

Chef Rita Lobo is leading a real public health crusade: getting people to prepare their own food

Under the pretext of “rushing” and “facilities” in the modern world, people have stopped cooking at home and are eating poorly. And, worse, not even real food! The direct consequence of this is the increase in the number of sick people, overweight, kidney and liver problems, hypertension, diabetes …

Who is alert is cook Rita Lobo, author of several cookbooks, presenter of a suggestive name TV program (“Practical cuisine”) and commander of one of the most popular sites on the internet, “Panelinha”.

Rita Lobo is conducting a real public health crusade, whose main objective is to take Brazilians back to the kitchen and prepare their own food. “In 1970, the country had 37% of child malnutrition and today it has 50% of overweight people”, he explains. According to her, it is the result of poor diet, excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods. “Before, there was the pasta, but not the ready lasagna, which is just heated in the microwave. It is imitation of food. It is made from food, but it has so many additives, to change the flavor, color, texture, aroma, which is no longer eaten ”, he argues.

Graduated in gastronomy at the Institute of Culinary Education, in New York (USA), Rita Lobo embraced the cause after having contact with epidemiologists from the University of São Paulo (USP), who, in 1995, detected that Brazilians were getting fat in an epidemic. “They took the POF (Family Budget Survey) and found that the consumption of sugar, salt and oil was falling, but the population was gaining weight. Then they found out that those who buy sugar, salt and sugar are because they cook, they don’t buy ready-made food ”, he explains.

“The great food industry sells an idea that there is no need to cook and practical is to take the lasagna from the freezer and put it in the microwave. Ultra-processed foods are those that imitate food and expel real food from our table ”, he adds.

Rita Lobo cites another example: “Today, when talking about yogurt, the person thinks about that business that shakes and drinks, that other that regulates the intestine, or the other that is ‘an explosion of flavors’. Anyone who takes the time to read the list of ingredients on the label will fall behind. It has a yogurt base, but it has an emulsifier, to have a more creamy texture; a flavoring to make the flavor more strawberry than the real strawberry ”, he warns. “People make choices without realizing that their understanding of healthy eating is governed by the big industry. We have to be radical and expel the ultra-processed products from the menu ”, he reinforces.

Rita Lobo didactically summarizes the most appropriate way to choose foods: “If you say ‘eat two servings of carbohydrate, one of protein and reduce the fat to half a portion’, the person will be left without understanding anything. But if you say ‘eat food bought at the fair and made at home and avoid everything that is done at the factory’, the person understands ”.


The large number of TV programs and videos on the internet demonstrate that cooking is one of the fads of the moment. Rita Lobo does not see this in a negative way. “” This fad came at an excellent time because we left a moment that was “cooking is an unoccupied housewife’s thing” to a time when cooking is not a “housewife’s” subject, but ‘of the house’. It is a trend, as in all other fads, but it has not started to fall yet ”.

Traditional pattern

For the specialist, it is necessary to recover the value of traditional cuisine. The countries with the lowest rates of obesity are those that preserve what Rita calls the traditional pattern of food and exemplifies: “Japan, France, Italy, Spain have food based on real food, without ultra-processed foods”.

According to her, Brazil has a great advantage, as it has a culinary identity, but it needs to be rescued. “It’s time to start cooking rice and beans again, to value it. It is this Brazilian pattern that includes all vegetables, meats, flours (manioc, corn), tapioca. It is the most accessible diet, taking into account the foods that we have in abundance in the country. The United States is in a much worse position. They have nowhere to go. They don’t have a traditional eating pattern, ”he says.

Rita Lobo quotes the phrase of another authority in the world of healthy food, the American journalist Michael Pollan: Do not eat anything that your great-grandmother would not recognize as food. “He refers to the time when there was no food made at the factory”.


But how to prepare your own food in a world where we are all swamped with activities and, therefore, “out of time”? For Rita Lobo, the solution is to plan. “Share tasks, plan purchases, portion, enjoy the freezer,” he says. “On weekends, families have to make a pot of beans, portion and freeze. During the week, make a stew, defrost the beans, season, it’s ready. One thing you do in ten minutes. You can solve dinner, lunch, lunchbox ”.

Learn to cook

Rita Lobo warns that it is normal for people to say that they do not have time, but in fact, they do not know how to cook. “Cooking is like reading and writing, everyone should know. And it’s like reading and writing, too, because no one is born knowing. In the kitchen, we don’t necessarily need to go to school but we need to learn, whether with websites, TV shows and books. There is a generation there that was unable to learn because the mothers stopped cooking ”. For her, cooking is not only used to feed the body, but relationships, stimulate creativity. “It is the most efficient tool for us to be healthy, in every way”, he concludes.

Fighting exaggeration

She warns of radicalism in search of healthy eating, remembering a question asked on a social network. “I made a tweet exemplifying a general trend of people asking,” Can I replace I don’t know what with coconut oil, egg with yogurt, rice with quinoa? ” No, you can’t! Rice, beans, egg, are irreplaceable. This tweet was a compilation of requests, the most weird ones, and my answer to that is: I can’t! It was incredible, because it opened a discussion in Brazil. We need to understand that eating chicken with sweet potatoes and salad every day is not a healthy diet ”, he says. “Once, the person asked for a pie recipe with half the calories. I suggested a delicious pie and added: “eat half what you would eat”.

Types of food

After several researches, scientists from USP divided the food:

In natura and minimally processed- All fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, meats.

Culinary ingredients- Oil and other fats (olive oil, butter, lard); salt and other spices; the sugar. These are the ingredients that are used to make the food, but are not eaten in isolation.

Processed foods- They suffer little manipulation: bread, cheese, pasta, dried meat, cod. They can (and should) be part of the diet, but not the basis of it.

Ultra- processed foods- These are industrialized products, which have a profusion of chemical additives to alter or emphasize aromas, colors, flavors, textures and delay deterioration.

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